Sunday, November 12, 2017

St Joe's Light and Waves

Looking again to photos from the March 2010 Michigan west coast lighthouse tour, the first stop was in St. Joseph, Michigan.  The light is one of my favorite subjects.  They are fairly unique.  I've been there on multiple occasions.  What I can say about the area, if it is nice outside the photos will be very boring.  Consequently, the more interesting the photo, the more challenging the weather conditions.  I'll give the weather a 5 on the scale, for being windy.  (And cold...)

Spoiler alert.  This is a combination of two images.  The main shot of the water and buildings is one image and the sky is another.  Both images were taken within minutes of each other and from the same location.  The only difference was zoom.  In both shots, the particulars AUTO, ISO 200, f/13 and 1/320.  In the original image of the water and buildings, the sky was just plain flat.  Could not do a thing with it.  I found another image from the same environment with some definition in the sky.  Time to combine.

In each image, I create multiple exposure levels.  For the water and building, I created 5 images covering two full stops above and two stops below the original exposure.  For the sky I created 3 images to cover two stops above and two stops below the original exposure.  For each image, I put them through Photomatix - giving each image the same settings.  I used On One to mask the sky in the original image and combine the second image below it.

In this case it all worked.  The mask creation was simple - mostly straight lines.

I really like the water and wave colors here.  It is difficult to leave the rust colors of the building alone.  Any additional saturation borders on obscene.  I struggle with the red roof.  In reality it isn't so bright.  I tried to leave it alone and let the water carry the image.  Just didn't work for me.  So there is just a little pop there.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Grand Haven Light

Way back in March of 2010 I visited the west side of Michigan, theoretically on a lighthouse tour.  Not kidding myself, it was not a warm journey.  The temperature was very, very brisk.  The good news, I did have to 'remove' many tourists from any images.
Given the file number of the image, I was just starting with the D90.  Which also means, every shot I was taking at the time, I was learning something.  And this shot is no different.
The shot is late afternoon/early evening.  
I was walking on the concrete pier toward the light (west!).  I have many shots from this time, but since I was shooting into the sun in this one, the camera was really confused.  Back in those days, I was shooting in AUTO mode.  I'm fairly certain, even in MANUAL I couldn't have done much better.  In these situations, a three shot minimum HDR would have done the best.  Again, lesson learned.  But another lesson, when in doubt, shoot dark.  Shooting dark allows more colors to be reclaimed.
The setting sun is in direct line with the light.  Under normal circumstances, this spells disaster.  Without the help of software, this doesn't work.  I used my main three packages to get this done.
First, the particulars.  This was taken with a Tamron 18-270 lens.  I wound up trading that in shortly after the purchase for a Nikon lens.  Another story, another time.  ISO 200, f/9 and 1/500.
The original Nikon JPG looked something like this.

Dark, eh?

That was one confused camera.

Staying in the 2010 age, my primary editing packages would have been Adobe Elements and Photomatix.  And I like the grunge look.  Really grunge.

Using these two packages and my taste at the time, I came up with this.

I created multiple images, each with a different exposure using the RAW Editor.  I probably did three images.  I used Photomatix to blend the three images to one image and played with the setting until I came up with this.  This is still one of my favorite 'artistic' shots.

Fast forward to 2017.  Software updates.  Process improvements.  Taste changes.

My goal for this was to get the light color (red) to come out, keep some definition of the sky/clouds and water.  Everything else should fall into place.  And I'd like to take some of the saturation/grunge out if it.

The creation process was along the same lines as in 2010.  I created five different exposures in the RAW editor.  I combined the images in Photomatix.  Using one of the presets, I came really close to what I wanted.  I like the darker version, as opposed to dark version, but I still couldn't get the red of the light right.  I tried a new trick.  Using On One, I combined the post Photomatix image with one of the lighter images created in RAW.  I masked out the light on the darker image, allowing the lighter light to show.  I changes some of the tone settings to get a slightly warmer feel.

I like this version.  There's more time invested in this edition than in previous versions, but that's OK.  It's all a learning experience.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

DMRRC - The North Western

I like HDR shots/effects.  I've run from light effects to full onslaught grunge.  And I'm not going to apologize for any part of the journey.

That being said, I found an image that I couldn't make HDR work for me.  I tried all the tricks.  Nothing worked.

So I went plain.  And I liked the result.  

I usually like 'slightly' over sharpened effects.  In this shot, I thought it took away.  Not that this is smooth by any stretch.  The ISO is 6400.  I'd use up to that setting again.

This image breaks a few 'rules'.  I like the lines of the North Western train.  In this frame, it is close to the center.  I was limited by the angle of the view in the setting so in the center it will stay.  If I wanted to go further with the shot, I'd work on removing the three bright 'dots'.  Or maybe just the bigger of the three.  

The one adjustment I did make was to darken the gravel in the foreground.  In the original image, it is quite light.  There might have been an odd light source.  Anyway, that had to go.  I think the image is full, so can't find a different crop that suits me.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Barn in Fall - What a difference eight years makes......

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is old or wood barns.  First, it seems that no two buildings are the same.  Next, you have the wood patterns and what digital processing can do.   Another aspect I like are the surroundings, whether it is nature or multiple legged.

One of my first subjects is a barn in Pennsylvania.  And by first, we're talking eight years ago.  We're talking D80.  I must have deleted the RAW files somewhere along the line, but I do have .HDR files that were created by Photomatix.  And at that point in time, the single image process wasn't that good, so I'm guessing there were three merged (RAW) images.  At that time, I was also using Elements.  Not Photoshop.

I thought it might be interesting to see how processing, software and my tastes have changed over the years.  These are two shots taken on the same day, minutes apart.

The first shot is one I last worked in 2009.  It is one of my favorites.  When I was part of the Art at the Market group, it was a seller.  Again, at that time I was using Elements and Photomatix only.  I also thought grunge was really cool.  Here are a few flavors:

Trying to recall, but I must have been real happy to figure out how to watermark the image and get the copyright right.  Pretty plain.  This is the image I sold at the Market.  This image came out best when printing to paper.  I remember the color of the barn doors is what caught my eye.

On the next/following image I remember trying to boost the colors with Photomatix.  I used this image for years as part of my personal screensaver slideshow.  As I look at it now, it is a bit over-saturated.  Or just colorful.

In the next image, I used the grunge setting in Photomatix.  At one time, I thought this was just plain cool.  And all I can say now is, sometimes you just have to step over the line to define where it is.  (Don't judge me.)

Now let's fast forward to today.  The images is from a RAW D80 file using current On One and Photoshop software.  And my personal take.

Initially I see more sharpening used.  Not as much fall colors in the trees.  I tried to pop the tree colors, but it didn't look right to me.  Made the image look too 'Photoshopped'.  So this shot for me is a lot cleaner, still has some colors and not overly painted.

Fun to see the differences.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

DMRRC - Burlington Northern

Earlier this year I purchased a 85mm (AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR 85mm f/3.5G ED VR) Nikon lens.  The main goal was to get sharper images than I was getting with my 18-200.

My first excursion with the lens outside of Grandpa's Dungeon was to the Detroit Model Railroad Club.  I had grand visions of what the day would bring.

I didn't do much to this image with respect to sharpness and bokeh.  If I remember right, this was taken on a tripod with a remote release.  To help maintain the sharpness, I didn't do any smoothing.  In my past train photos, I've photo stacked to get the image entirely in focus.  So this is different.

The vitals:  85mm, 1/15th, f/5.0, ISO 800.  Put that in the DOF blender with my distance of 3 ft and that gives a DOF of about one inch.  That is probably pretty close to correct.

When going through some shots to work on, I chose this one because of the sharpness of the front of the train.  I also chose to process the shot entirely with On One.  The exposure didn't need much work as the light is pretty even all around.  i was going through all the filters in On One when I stumbled on this color shade.  For what ever reason, this combination with the existing colors works for me.

In the past, I might have warmed or cooled an image a few points but that is as much as I've ever used for a total color shift.  This is new to me and I'll have to remember it.

On many fronts, this is a different photo from me.  Maybe I need to explore more?

Summer 2017 is over.........

Well, the summer photo vacation is over.

I didn't take a lot of new shots this year.  I'll have to make up for it with software amazement.

I've updated my software packages.  Photomatix, who I last gave money to over three years ago, still gives me no charge updates.  Beside the fact it is world class software, that alone makes Photomatix a valid software consideration if you are looking to get into HDR.  I updated my On One software package.  Looks like they've made some very nice enhancements.  The Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom 2018 versions just came out.  We'll see how lost I can get with that stuff.

Adobe also has Photoshop and Lightroom Apps for your mobile device.  I should add they are FREE apps.  I've played with them for a bit - and they are a lot lighter than the desktop versions, but for free they are still very powerful.  I just completed a technology upgrade (tablet and phone) where I can try these apps out.

The improvements in the On One Photo Raw 2018 software look very interesting.  I've used the software primarily for the the masking functions as I've found them to be much better/easier than Photoshop.  Related to this, I now understand their luminosity mask and how powerful that can be.  I need to get more comfortable with On One.

I will also work more with my phone camera.  For now it won't take the place of my DSLRs, but it would be nice to get 'better' results.  Now that I know about the Adobe Apps, I need to work on transferring photos between my phone and tablet, without wi-fi.  I'm not kidding myself, working on the phone screen is not going to happen with me.  The kids in the training videos are awesome, but they don't have my peepers.  I can live with working on the tablet.

I'd also like to get more comfortable with my device tablet (instead of mouse).  I've played with it off and on, but now that my mobile tablet has a pen I should get more comfortable with this device as well.

That's the plan for this winter.  Between now and June 2018 the paying job will get very busy.  I will have some opportunities for photos so I'll just have to make the most of them.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

DMRRC 2017 Visit Prep

My photo club field trip to the DMRRC is this week.  Time to get ready.
Last year I had new camera, and a new strategy.  This year if something goes wrong, I don't have those excuses.
This year I am using new software for my remote tethering.  I've been working with it for a few months so that can't be too much of an excuse.
There could be a new and unexpected twist.  I'm comfortable with the D7200 and the Helicon Remote software.  I haven't worked that much with the D90 and the software, so was down in the dungeon putting that configuration through its paces.
The D90 is not wi-fi capable, so had to use USB cable.  Not a big issue.  What I did discover is that in some configurations the Remote software will not save to the camera.  The table I'm using has about 6 GB of space available - I need to save to the camera or at the very least save to the tablet's external card.  If I changed the my thoughts and had all the images sent to the tablet, either USB or wi-fi, that adds a lot of time to the shooting process.  I do like the idea of sending a image tot he tablet, only for verification.  But i want the RAW image to stay on the camera, both for speed considerations and file size.
Fortunately there is a setting on the Remote software as to what to do with the image(s).  This setting will send the JPG image to the tablet and will save the RAW image to the camera.  I tested on both the D90 and the D7200 and it worked well.  Cuts the stacking process by more than 50%.  Huge.
The next change will be I will start off using the 85 mm lens (AF-S DX Micro NIKKOR
85mm f/3.5G ED VR).  The lens I used last year, my go to 18-200 did are real nice job.  I thought i would use it again.  But as i was int he dungeon for a few hours, I decided to see if there was a difference in the lens with respect to clarity.  yea, I know.  With a prime lens I should always get better clarity.  I just didn't know how much.  And now I know.
The subject is the underside of a PC disk drive, the circuit board.  This looks like a really good subject for focus stacking.
Both shots are 30 shot stacks.  For the display, the area that is shown is at 100% magnification.  i tried to get as many environmental settings as close as possible.  The camera and the subject were not intentionally moved.  Both shots were with the D7200.  ISO is 100.
The first shot is with the 18-200 lens.  The focal length turned out to be 150mm.  This is f/6.3 at 1/25 second.

Reality is, this isn't all that bad.  (Or so I thought.)  I accept the challenges of small sensors and some what limited lenses.  Unless I'm going to enlarge this to a wall sized photo, this will look good.


This is the 85mm prime lens.  Same speed and f/stop.  Same number of photos in the stack.

Based on this information, I will start with the 85mm lens - until it doesn't work.

I will do more prep this week.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Back to the Detroit Model Railroad Club - 2017

In a few weeks, my Photo Club will be heading out to the DMRRC for a return visit.  Personally, I had a lot of fun last year.  The DMRRC members who were out that night were just wonderful.  Like most places as soon as I left when we were done, I know I left so many shots out there.  Fortunately, I get another crack at them.

Last year I worked with focus stacking.  While most of my shots lacked train aesthetics, but technically they were good.

I've been asked by the Club to lead a discussion in our next meeting about the photo shoot.  Most of our members are outdoor photographers and being inside is a stretch.  

From talking with Club members after the 2016 visit, many said they didn't understand why the shots appeared out of focus.  That seemed to be the number one challenge.

I've been out to the DMRRC a few times in the last weeks.  I was in with the paying public, I didn't have the freedom to do focus stacking in these visits - as well as the trains were now in motion.  Well, this stinks.

In my first visit this year, I shot maybe 300 images - and only two came out that were any good.  And guess what - they were all fuzzy - like out of focus.  And then it hit me what the problem was.  Depth of Field.  I could usually find some point that was sharp - just not the point I wanted.

Unless this engine is getting ready to hit a fog bank, the focus starts to come in about two to three inches behind the front of the unit.  This is a clear miss on my part.  I'll bet I hit the front with the focus point and as I moved the camera back to center the subject, I held on the focus and it moved.  Rookie mistakes.......  Well that mystery solved.  But this illustrates how shallow the depth of filed can be.

So....  Speaking of Depth of Field, working inside is a real challenge.  The lighting isn't too bad but far from ideal.  You are shooting short distances to subject with high lens mm settings.  For example, if you shoot f/8 at 30 inches to subject with an 85mm lens - your DOF is essentially one inch.  Which coincidentally is just about right on for the image above. 

So the first points to the club are this.  Be sure of your focus point and have a strategy to deal with Depth of Field.  

One of the environmental factors is the subjects will more than likely not be moving.  They will be staged as requested.  So the speed question is reduced.  Even better if you bring a tripod.  I used a bean bag on the track last year.

Also, I will be focus stacking again this year.  I've gone over this with the Club a few times, hope they stayed awake.

Next up:  Increasing ISO if necessary.  (And it might be.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hole Drill

Nikon is running a sale on two lenses - theoretically for close up work.  Both are prime.  One is a 35mm and the other is a 85mm Micro.  Nikon is calling its macro a micro lens.  Whatever, as long as it works.  

Yep, bought them this weekend.

I bought a 50mm last year - and it really wasn't doing the trick for me.  I was using it primarily for portrait work of which I don't do very much.  But I couldn't get the family picture right.  So - I'm going to a 35 mm.  As to the 85mm micro, I don't have anything to do real close up work.  With this lens, I can get close ups just under a foot away.  with my other lenses, I'm looking at another six inches away.  Doesn't sound like much, but.....

So today is play day.  My subject is a common hole cutting drill.  Truth be told, I had six different sets of shots.  Either the expose wasn't right, the tilt wasn't right or the lights didn't do the trick for me.  But stuck with it.

This is a 36 shot focus stack with the 85mm lens.  ISO 100, f/5.6, .3 Sec.  I shot this in RAW and the post work was in Photoshop.  The object is placed on a white poster-board.

As most of my efforts are HDR and somewhat 'soft', this is quite different.